If you look really close at this picture, you can see the fear in my eyes and the fear in my smile. Fear is a thief. I’ve known him a long time. At times I’ve allowed him to rummage through my chest of drawers taking some priceless items. Other times I’ve attacked him with vengeance at the first sign of his foot in the door. Other times he’s made his way into the living room before I’ve even realized he’d gained that much access. We are familiar foes. I don’t hate many things, but I do hate him and flying cockroaches of course.
Fear has stolen years. Fear has stolen moments. Fear has stolen my voice at times. Fear has stolen adventure and risk. Fear has stolen opportunities and fear tried to steal my getting to the top of the mountain. I have an immobilizing fear of heights. I mean, so immobilizing that one-time Philly and I had gotten off of a terrorizing gondola ride, (for me at least) only to find myself on open metal grates that had nothing beneath them for what was surely miles. (fear makes everything look larger and farther.) I could not move. Literally, my legs were frozen in place. He had to come over, while I closed my eyes and lead me back to the gondola where I rode backwards down the mountain so I couldn’t see how high up I was.
For the past eight or nine years our one family vacation with as many of our kids as can join, we go skiing. For the last three years, because of physical challenges I have walked through I haven’t been able to ski. My husband tells me all the time, “Babe, the sites up there at the top of the mountain are breathtaking.” I know they are. I’d seen them once. I made my way up there one time only to not be able to ski for three years. So, I had one goal on this trip. Get to the top of the mountain.
However, they do not have bunny slopes at the top of the mountain. There are no old women, skiing like old women up there. There are teenagers and little girls in pink tights who are three inches tall with legs like toothpicks who are on the ski team up there. Not women like me. Scared women like me. So, my whole goal was to spend a few days mastering my green terrain down there with the old people and beginner skiers in order to make my way to the top. It took two days, but on the third day I felt I was ready.
I had been tracking my skiing calorie burn with my Apple Watch. My resting heartrate is so low that every time I go to the doctor the nurse says, “Is your blood pressure always this low?” As if she’s waiting for me to code. “Yes, it’s always low.” My normal is 78-83. I had burned a couple hundred calories the last two days on my greens.
Mr. Jones decided on my third day that he wanted to take me a different route than the one single blue mountain I had done before. What he does not realize is that fearful people like routine. They like to go up and down the same mountain over and over until they learn it and master it. Then they can move on to something new and battle through all their fear all over again. But he wasn’t giving me time to do this with my familiar hill. Before I knew it, he had me going somewhere I had not been before. When we got to the edge of the first hill, we were about to go down but my skis would not budge. My heart rate without skiing was 140! I was losing weight standing still!
“I cannot believe you brought me here!”
“You can do this. I wouldn’t have brought you here if you couldn’t do it and I wanted you to see something new.”
This man did not realize I had battled demons with the ski lift alone.
I couldn’t move. “I cannot do this.” I announced as if my lack of motion wasn’t proof enough. I felt my heartbeat in my brain. My watch was going to announce to me that this was my best workout ever and I was still at the top of the mountain!
I knew I could do it. I know how to get down a mountain. But I was scared to do it. And skiing scared never works out well. I started down and in two turns went down. Straight on my butt. I huffed as I pulled myself back up. I gathered myself. Tried to slow my heart rate and started again. Two turns. Down she went. I was not having fun and I was getting angry. Angry at the man at the top of the hill. I slammed the poles back into the ground and pushed myself back up hoping I could navigate getting upright without my skis starting before my body was ready. Up. Down. This time I was mumbling not very nice things to this man who had now skied close to me but not in range of my pole lest it swing in his direction.
“Babe, I didn’t bring you here to scare you. I brought you here so you could see the beauty and I know you can do this.”
“Um, there is no beauty here on my bum.” I got myself back up and somehow got myself off that particular hill only to discover another very similar one coming after it. By the time I got to the bottom I was no longer on speaking terms with my guide. I left him and went back up the ski lift to conquer the run that I loved, not because I wasn’t afraid of it, but because it was too beautiful to miss. On that ride up the ski lift, I put my earphones in, turned on my worship music and talked to my heavenly Father. We had a conversation about the beauty, about my wanting Him to be present with me and my desire for Him to be a part of the rest of my afternoon and my request that he help me push past my fear so I could actually enjoy myself. There was a moment when the ski lift stopped. Not a super fun experience for a girl afraid of heights. And the sun peaked through those stately white firs and landed on my face. I knew He had heard me.
When I reached the top of the mountain something was different this time. First, you must know, you cannot see the beauty at the bottom of the mountain. There are things that are only discovered, experienced, and seen at the top. The same is true with fear. Fear will always try to keep us at the bottom of the mountain causing us to miss what God wants us to experience. Fear always steals. Always. That’s why sometimes we simply have to do things afraid.
Second, even my one and only run I like to do at the top of the mountain still filled me with fear. But after doing that beast of a run with Philly I left some of my fear there. Now I was able to look at this one run that I loved and think, “If I can do what I just did then I can do this.” And truth be told, that hill I fell down, multiple times, was honestly no bigger than the hills on this run that I’m used to. So, it gave me even more courage and by the time we left I had finally mastered my favorite run without falling one time but more than that I skied down it over and over having fun!
There are moments in this life that fear has stolen that I so wish I could have back. The conversations I wish I had had. The mountains I wish I had skied. The risks I wish I had taken. The planes I wish I had jumped out of. (That is a total lie! I am not jumping out of a plane!) The faith steps I wish I could get back. But I can tell you this, there are some things in this life you will never get the breathtaking view of or the encounters with your Heavenly Father unless you do them afraid. So, do them. Do them afraid.